Question: When I took this job a few months ago, several people warned me about a difficult co-worker with a strong personality. “Sybil“ has been here longer than anyone else, and everyone walks on eggshells around her. She is very bossy and likes to tell people what to do. Our manager works at a different location, so he is unaware of these issues.
Recently, Sybil has begun acting like my gatekeeper. She won’t allow anyone into my cubicle and even tells people not to speak to me while I’m working. If someone leaves me a written request, Sybil handles the situation herself, then throws the note away without telling me.
Because there are only six people in this office, I’m reluctant to make waves. However, Sybil’s interference is making it hard to do my job. What would you suggest?
Answer: If “everyone walks on eggshells“ around Sybil, then you are clearly dealing with an office bully. Bullies will persecute anyone who allows it, so stop fretting about rocking the boat and start standing up for yourself. Based on the warnings you received, your colleagues may also need to learn this lesson.
People who are easily intimidated frequently fail to establish appropriate boundaries. When you allow Sybil to ban others from your cubicle, you are voluntarily giving her the power to control you. And when your co-workers comply, they are doing the same. Collectively, you have all conspired to make Sybil the evil queen of the office.
The good news is that, having put her in this position, the group can also choose to overthrow this domineering woman. To accomplish this, all five of you must agree on new rules for dealing with her. For example, you can simply ignore Sybil’s directives about who can speak to whom. And you could send emails or texts instead of leaving notes.